5 Tips for Playtime

Play

 

As adults, we sometimes forget what it was like to be a kid.  It’s important to spend time playing with your child.  Some of us may need some guidance in how to “play.”  Here are 5 tips for playtime with your child:

1.  Be silly.  Don’t be afraid to make funny faces or act goofy.  Your child will love it and you’ll probably hear some laughs and giggles.

2.  Follow their lead.  Most children will make choices and show you what they want to play.  If they want to play cars, play cars.  If they want to play blocks, start building a tower.  Following their lead will show them that you care about them and their interests.

3.  Get down on their level.  If you are physically able to, sit on the floor with your child.  If you can’t get on the floor, then adapt your play to the table or couch. Children will play everywhere and anywhere, but it’s important to be able to be on their eye level and be truly engaged with them.

4.  Talk about what you and your child are doing.  While playing, there is a lot of language stimulation happening.  Don’t forget to talk and use language while playing.  Each toy and activity has its own vocabulary words.  For example, think about how many words are used while playing blocks.  Words like “on top, block, fall down, uh-oh, so big, big tower, big block, little block, etc.”  You are using a lot descriptive words and building your child’s language skills.

5.  Take turns.  It’s important for kids to play with others.  This builds social skills and peer interactions.  While playing, use words like “my turn, your turn” and “may I play?” to assist your child when they play with others.

Take some time to play with your child.  You both will benefit from playing together.  They will learn so much from you.  You will not only learn about what a cool kid you have, but you will be reinforcing and establishing a positive relationship with them – one they’ll remember well beyond their childhood years. Oh – and don’t forget to have fun!

Now It’s Your Turn:  What’s your favorite game or toy to play with your child?

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Why We Love Puzzles

puzzles

I just found out that today is National Puzzle Day.  Who knew?   Puzzles are fabulous toys for every child.  Be sure to look for puzzles made of good quality and try to find some with pictures that look as realistic as possible.  There are a lot of developmental skills you can work on while playing with puzzles.

1.  Fine Motor Skills – Getting those puzzle pieces to fit exactly right takes a lot of concentration and fine motor skills.  Holding the little knobs (if there is one) is a great way to work on using a pincer grasp.  Bigger knobs work on holding objects with your palm and whole hand.  Some puzzles are inset puzzles, others are interlocking puzzles.  There are puzzles with fun textures and some with locks, latches and doors.  All of these require different fine motor skills and strategies.

2.  Visual Processing – Looking at the puzzle pieces and trying to figure out how to make them fit takes a lot of hand-eye coordination and visual processing skills.

3.  Cognitive Skills – Puzzles are great to work on matching pictures and following directions.  You can also work on identifying, matching and naming colors, shapes, numbers and letters.

4.  Speech and Language Skills –  Not only are puzzles great to work on naming pictures, but you can also encourage your child to request objects.  Hold the puzzle pieces in your lap and encourage your child to request which piece they want by signing or saying, “more.”  For older children, you can work on using the phrase, “I want + object name”  (e.g. “I want cat, I want blue circle, etc”) to request the desired puzzle piece.  Some puzzles make sounds when you place the pieces on the board – this is a great way to encourage your child to imitate sounds and talk about what they see and hear.

5.  Gross Motor Skills – You might be wondering how puzzles can work on gross motor skills, but they can be a great for encouraging motor skills.  For younger kids, place the puzzle board on top of your couch, chair or coffee table.  Then, place the puzzle pieces on the floor.  Your child will have to bend and squat down to pick up the puzzle pieces and then place them in the correct spot.  For older kids, place the puzzle pieces across the room.  Encourage your child to walk, run, hop, jump, skip, crawl, etc. across the room to pick up the puzzle pieces one at a time and then bring them back.  You could even develop an obstacle course for them to go through to bring back the pieces.  These activities are great for encouraging gross motor movements and motor planning skills.

Puzzles can be a lot of fun and they work on so many great developmental skills.  So, grab a puzzle and your child and have some fun!

 

Now It’s Your Turn:  Does your child have a favorite puzzle?  If so, tell us about it. 

 

10 Reasons Why Reading is Important

books

Reading books and stories with your child is important for their development.   There are a variety of different ways to read a book now.  You can read “real” books, board books, digital books, magazines, picture books, etc.  We don’t know what the world will look like in 5 or 10 years, but what we do know is that reading is important and that reading a “real” book is different than reading an electronic book.

Real books feel and look different.  They have texture and substance. You can feel and smell the pages.  A lot of children books have beautiful pictures to engage your child.  These books have textures and pop-up pictures that you can see and touch – which enrich the story and increase your child’s understanding and vocabulary skills.  Children learn about following directions and when and how to turn the pages.  They learn about the cover of books and “the end” of the story.   Children learn to use their imagination while hearing and reading these stories.  As they get older, children learn how to mark their favorite pages or make notes in the margin.  They learn how to take care of their books.  Children learn that snuggling up with mom and dad for story time is a great bonding experience full of love and adventure.

Digital books feel and look different.  There are a variety of devices capable of displaying digital books – smart phones, tablets, e-readers, etc.   One of the benefits of these devices is that they offer a different learning experience.  We all know that children learn in different ways.  If your child is not interested in “real” books, they might be very interested in digital books.  These devices offer a different type of visual stimulation and learning.  Children are still learning.  They’re still following directions and building their vocabulary skills and some devices even take the story to the next level.  A lot of details can be expanded on using the digital books, but it might be hard for the child to snuggle with the device and mom and dad – especially if they want to use it independently.

Regardless of the type of book you use, reading is important because it opens up a world of opportunities.  Stories are full of excitement and adventure.  These stories build on your child’s imagination and promote language development and literacy skills.  Reading to your child every day and having them see you reading are beneficial because:

  1. Children learn to love books by watching their parents read
  2. Reading aloud is fun for children
  3. Reading aloud teaches children a great deal about words and language
  4. Reading allows children to learn about and pursue their personal interests and passions
  5. Hearing stories about other children helps develop a sense of empathy
  6. Reading exposes children to a variety of cultures and places
  7. Books create connections between everyday situations (such as going to the dentist)
  8. Books encourage pretend play
  9. Reading teaches children about the world around them
  10. Reading together creates a special bond between parents and their children

So, grab a book and your child and enjoy some time together.

Now It’s Your Turn:  Do you have a preference for “real” books or digital ones?   What’s your child’s favorite book?

The Colors of Christmas

Identifying and naming colors are important skills for children to learn.  Most children know basic colors (red, blue, orange, yellow, green, purple, etc) by the time they are 3 years old.  During the holidays, there are a lot of sights and colors everywhere. This can be a great time to work on helping your child identify and name colors.  Here’s a simple craft to work on this important skill.

Materials needed and to be used with adult supervision:

1 large green triangle made from construction paper, cardstock, poster board or foam
1 medium green triangle made from the same materials as the larger one
1 small green triangle made from the same materials
About 8 different colored pom-pom balls* OR circles cut from different construction paper
glue
1 yellow star cut from construction paper

*Pom-poms are very enticing to young children.  Please supervise your child carefully so they do not place them in their mouth. 

Step 1:  Glue the green triangles together and glue on the star.

 

christmas tree

Step 2:

  • To work on identifying colors:  Present two different colored pom-poms or circles in front of your child.  Ask your child, “show me blue.”  If they reach for the correct color, praise them and then let them glue the pom-pom or circle on the tree.  If they don’t get the correct color, present the two colors again, but move the targeted one closer to your child.  Continue this step until all the colored pom-poms are on the tree.

 

  • To work on naming colors: Place the colored pom-poms in a bag so you can’t see them.  Have your child reach into the bag and pull out a pom-pom.  When they do, say – “oh look – it’s _____” and wait for them to respond with the correct color name.  If they do – praise them and let them glue it on the tree.  If they don’t, ask them, “what color is it?”  If they still need help, say the color name and try it again.

 

christmas tree colors

Step 3:  Have fun!

 

Now It’s Your Turn:  How do you like to work on identifying and naming colors?